One of the practical applications of the Christian walk is found in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Today there is a family weeping for the loss of their daughter, a victim of the manifestation of one person’s hatred toward others. It is, of course, easy to simply condemn the white supremacists who organized the protest, and indeed we should. Thinking that one race is elevated, or that another is below other races is anti-biblical at its core–refusing to acknowledge that we are all of one flesh, are all from the same original parents and all created in the image of God with the inherent dignity that entails. So Bereans join the condemnation of such anti-biblical thinking that argues for racial superiority.
Yet surely we must reflect more deeply, since were this particular manifestation of wickedness gone tomorrow, we would still have problems. In more technical terms, we must try to get to “root cause” of the issue. Partisans almost immediately jumped to the conclusion that President Trump is at least partially to blame, since he has not strongly enough condemned elements of the alt-right movement which helped support his election.
“I’m not going to make any bones about it,” Mayor Mike Signer (D) said on CNN. “I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.” “Look at the campaign he ran,” Signer said.
In the WSJ today, the editors blamed Charlottesville as just another example of the fruits of “identity politics.”
Yet the focus on Mr. Trump is also a cop-out because it lets everyone duck the deeper and growing problem of identity politics on the right and left. The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice. That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.
Yet I would argue for a deeper root cause, which is what we began our discussion with–the root cause of these animosities is that we are broken people living in a broken world, and that because of our sin we want to elevate ourselves, often by putting others down. We fail to see the image of God in those we oppose. It is hugely important to see this, lest we fall directly into the trap of those we condemn. Many condemning the white supremacists do so in part to help them reassure themselves of their own moral superiority: “I’m not not like them.” Yet that attitude, which is at least a danger to all of us, can place us in the position of the pharisee condemning the gentile, “Thank you God I’m not like him.”
So today we need to weep with the family who lost their daughter. And we need to weep for the family of the young man who now faces murder charges. And we even need to weep for the young man who drove the car into the crowd, as well as the many other white supremacists who don’t recognize the source of their brokenness, or the solution found in Jesus Christ. And we need to boldly and repeatedly make the truth of the inherent dignity of every human being known to all. The root cause of Charlottesville is not rhetoric, but is found in an understanding of the brokenness of each of Adam’s children.